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How to get a new Bundeskanzler

Or: what is the election of a new Bundestag all about?

If you happen to watch, hear or see any of the news channels these days, you might think that the upcoming elections are all about electing the new chancellor.

But in reality, it’s the new Bundestag that is elected.

So, first of all:

What is the “Bundestag”?

The Bundestag is the German parliament.

  • der Bund = the federation

  • der Tag = the day – because in the olden days it used to be a gathering for one day to discuss all political matters.

The Bundestag is elected every four years.

And it’s the Bundestag who then decides who will be the Federal Chancellor!

The election process

The process for electing the Federal Chancellor is set out in Article 63 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz):

(1) The Chancellor shall be elected by the Bundestag without debate on the proposal of the Federal President.

(2) The person who receives the votes of a majority the Members of the Bundestagshall be elected. The person elected shall be appointed by the Federal President.

So, the steps for electing a Bundeskanzler are:

1. Proposal of the Federal President. In theory/ legally, the President is free to propose any candidate. But in reality he will propose the candidate of the strongest parliamentary groups.

2. Without any further debate the Bundestag elects the new Federal Chancellor.

Up to now, every candidate who has been proposed has been elected with an absolute majority.

3. The Federal President appoints the new Federal Chancellor.

What else does the Bundestag do?

The Bundestag ist the forum for discussing differing political opinions.

The most important task: making law.

More tasks:

  • The scrutiny of the government and its work.

  • Deciding on the federal budget

  • Deployment of the Bundeswehr (Federal Armed Forces) outside Germany

How is the Bundestag elected?

The German Bundestag is elected

  1. in accordance with the principles of proportional representation

  2. in combination with a candidate-centred election.

This is also called personalized proportional representation.

Under this system, each voter has two votes:

The first vote elects the constituency candidate directly.

The second vote goes to the Land list of a party.

A very complicated system that has lead to the German Parilament beoming the second largest in the world with 709 Members - and the number might still increase.

Finally, some intersting facts:

  • A total of 6,211 candidates are running in the Bundestag election on 26 September 2021

  • 47 parties are participating

  • A parliamentary group must consist of at least 5% of all members of parliament.


If you'd like to get more information (also in English), please follow these links:


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